In some ways, user experience (UX) designers are jacks of all trades — and masters of everything. They have become nearly as critical to projects as the software developers themselves. No, they don’t actually build the product from the ground up, but they do make it appealing to prospective and current users. They’re responsible for the look and feel of your software, making it more attractive in all senses.
Whether you’re hiring a UX designer for the first time or looking for a new one, there are many qualities you should seek out. Here are 10 of the most critical.
1. An Ability to Explain Complex Concepts in a Digestible Format
On a development team, everyone has roles, and they are often highly technical. One way to separate the good professionals from the great ones is by assessing their ability to translate their work into layman’s terms. If you ask a UX designer what they do and they launch into a highly technical explanation that goes straight over your head, not only does that mean you have no way of truly judging the explanation, but it also means they lack a crucial quality in UX designers.
That quality is excellent communication skills. Communication is critical to UX design. Their entire job is to make the product more accessible to users, and if they’re unable to tell you about their work in an appealing and digestible way, then you can bet they have trouble getting into the user’s head, too.
2. Research Skills
User research is the basis of all great UX design. It’s as fundamental to this role as it is to that of a scientist — they’re just studying different concepts. Interviews, surveys, and other market research are the backbone of this entire concept.
UX designers can’t just fabricate personas and prototypes — they must have the research to back up their ideas. They need to understand what users want, why they would gravitate to your product, and how they will respond to different features.
A UX designer needs to have empathy in order to understand the user. It’s a difficult quality to measure or assess, but it’s a crucial one nonetheless. That’s because they’re designing the look and feel of the product according to the needs and wants of that end user, and without the ability to step into their shoes — the very essence of empathy — they will have a difficult time understanding those needs and wants.
How do you gauge this important quality? Your interactions with the UX designer offer some insight. Another method of assessment is asking previous clients about their experience not only with the designer’s work but with the designer themselves.
4. A Strong Portfolio
How do you know that a prospective UX designer doesn’t just talk the talk but actually walks the walk? Their portfolio should serve as evidence of their claims. You should be able to look at their previous work and see the great work they’ve done in the past, demonstrating skills that they can bring to your project, too.
In addition to the quality of the work itself, pay attention to the overall organization and presentation of the portfolio. If you’re having trouble navigating it, that could speak to some missing qualities in the designer. You should be able to see the logic behind the format and be easily able to peruse the work.
5. Experience in Your Field
It’s not enough for a UX designer to have experience — they should have experience in your specific field. Given that the design of products and their usability varies greatly from industry to industry, you want someone who has demonstrated that they understand the intricacies of your particular vertical.
This is one reason why you might consider outsourcing UX design. Firms and freelancers that specialize in project-to-project work have experience with a wide array of clients, including, possibly, clients in your area.
6. An Understanding of Your Preferred Software Development Approach
Today, most software development companies embrace specific methodologies, such as Agile. It’s important for a UX designer to understand and have experience working with your preferred approach. That way, they’ll be able to work seamlessly under your leadership and collaborate effectively with the team. They will also recognize the deliverables you need and how you expect to receive them, as well as the feedback cycle.
7. Knowledge of Tools
UX designers, of course, must be equipped with knowledge of a wide array of tools and software in order to do their jobs successfully. When you’re interviewing a candidate, ask them about the platforms they use. They should be able to discuss the tools they use knowledgeably and competently.
And while it’s not critical for them to understand the tools their colleagues are using, they should have at least a cursory knowledge of how the various platforms work together to create a product.
8. Ability to Collaborate
UX designers are an integral part of the development team, but they are just that — part of the team. They must be able to collaborate with the other members of your team, including the developers, the project manager, the QA testers, the project lead, and any other key players.
Even with regard to the design process itself, a UX designer doesn’t work alone. They must ensure that their ideas go well with the functions of the product, which involves a partnership with the other roles on the team.
9. Creative Competencies
UX design depends on a number of creative competencies. Professionals must possess strong writing and art skills, to name just a couple. That’s because UX is a comprehensive concept encompassing numerous elements, from visual layout to auditory appeal.
It can be difficult to measure someone’s creativity. You can pay attention to elements in their past work and ask them to explain why they’ve made particular choices, whether that’s a piece of microcopy or a particular color choice.
10. Knowledge of Programming
No, they’re not the software developers themselves. Still, UX designers with some knowledge of programming or training in software development often do exemplary work. Plus, knowing how to code will help them collaborate better with the developers themselves and recognize what’s feasible in a product, as well as with devising the design concept. With the lines blurring responsibilities, it can never hurt to know some coding.
UX design is an important part of any product, and the designer is a critical member of your team. These skills are some of the most essential ones to look for in a professional you’re considering hiring.